Sometimes it is worthwhile to take a look back through history to see how we got where we are. Perhaps if we had spotted the signs at the time we wouldn’t be in such a mess now. I don’t mean looking as far back as Richard Doll, the Nazis, or the 1964 Surgeon General Report. I’m looking as recently as 1999.
In that year, pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome conducted a study using one of their own anti-depressants to see how it affected smokers trying to give up. Of the 12 doctors, eight admitted links to the company. To put this into context: Glaxo Wellcome developed an anti-depressant, conducted a study where two-thirds of the involved doctors were linked to the company, and used their own product to see if it helped people give up smoking. Surprise, surprise, it did help! People using the drug bupropion, 30% of those using it stayed off cigarettes for a year, compared to 16.4% using nicotine patches and 15.6% using a placebo.
The researchers stated:
So if you buy one pharmaceutical product, it will help a bit. If you buy a different pharmaceutical product, it will help a bit. But if you buy both then you will succeed. Raise your hand if you can’t see the inner-mechanics of this.
We let them get away with it though, because we didn’t have the foresight to see where it would end up. It is disheartening that at the turn of the millennium we were so naive as to believe a study funded by a company promoting a product of that company, accepting it as good science.
Nevermind, though. They have had a good run, made a lot of money, fooled a lot of people. But their time is nearly up.